The past few weeks I have been digging out from the years of paperwork piled downstairs on a basement shelf. In the process, I have felt a bit like an archaeologist sifting through the life of a stranger. There is a lot of shame and embarrassment associated with ADHD. Having mounds of unsorted paperwork, old bills, notices of old, unpaid (now paid, but not then) bills, overdraft charge statements, notices from bill collectors, etc., on top of having a huge hidden mess, is not a source of pride. It’s almost indescribable.
Sifting through the piles of paper has been interesting and horrifying at the same time. I encountered copious notes, scribbled ideas, to-do-lists, resolutions, business ideas, political ramblings, and more. All of these notes, piles of papers, unpaid bills, etc. originated before receiving my ADHD diagnosis. Many of the ideas scribbled on paper appear ridiculous to me now. Others are merely uninspiring. I had hundreds of schemes for generating money, but, oddly, none of them in areas I felt any passion for. It was as if the mere act of getting money was going to resolve all of my problems. Looking back, I now realize that even had I miraculously come up with a million dollar idea, I likely would have found a way to blow it up and end up with nothing.
At times I feel as if I am dealing with a stranger – someone unknown to me who came in and turned my life upside down. Sometimes I am angry, others sad, at times amused, and yet other times dumbfounded by the things I encounter. I saved nearly everything. Old reports done for a graduate class in public administration, hundreds of pages of reports and product information from a series of unrewarding marketing/merchandising jobs I convinced myself would be the answer to my economic difficulties, stacks and stacks of paid (and unpaid at the time) bills, a shocking number of unopened bills (as if avoiding them would make them go away). It has been its own little “shop of horrors”.
One of the difficult aspects of ADHD after the diagnosis is dealing with the consequences. Not only financial, but physical, emotional, mental, and the toll it takes on your personal relationships. It is really tough to face. Despite the difficulty, I have been doing my best lately to look the past square in the eye and deal with it. It feels good, liberating to clear away those past physical reminders of a life before knowing I had ADHD. It was extremely frustrating starting and stopping, achieving a degree of success both personally and financially only to fail again and again. The harsh judgment of others was terrible. I remember one Christmas receiving one of those self-help books as a gift and feeling that the giver of the gift should have just told me I was a failure. The gift was well-intentioned, and I definitely needed help, just not the help to be found within the pages of that book.
I’ve almost lost track of how many times in my life I have had to start over financially. I’ll accumulate a nest egg, only to get in trouble and have to break open the piggy bank to pay the bills. There have been so many seemingly brilliant business ideas, but with undiagnosed ADHD at the time, I was the last person who should have been in charge of a business or responsible for handling finances. My wife has endured many fits and starts – sometimes patiently, sometimes not.
Despite it all, one of my saving graces has been a very optimistic (perhaps at times overly optimistic) outlook. No matter what body blows life delivers, I – more often than not – seem to bounce back from them fairly quickly. There have been plenty of body blows, that’s for sure.
One thing that has helped has been reading about ADHD, understanding what it is and how it affects me, and trying to deal with it more effectively. I have been reading Russell Barkley‘s Taking Charge of Adult ADHD and Melissa Orlov’s The ADHD Effect on Marriage: Understand and Rebuild Your Relationship in Six Steps. They are both wonderful books, but in different ways.
Barkley’s book explains what ADHD from a more clinical and scientific point of view, and then offers suggestions on how to effectively deal with it. Orlov’s book is written with both the ADHD spouse and non-ADHD spouse in mind and has a wealth of ideas, based on her personal experience rebuilding her marriage to a husband with ADHD, on how couples can go about the process of overcoming the anger, fear, etc. that ADHD wreaks on a marriage.
I highly recommend reading both of the above books. I haven’t finished them yet, but am over half-way through both thus far. Digging out from the effects of ADHD can be hard. It’s not something you want to do alone. It takes time and patience. Not only do you need the patience and support of loved ones, but you need to exercise patience with them and yourself. Facing up to the past and digging out – both literally and figuratively – present challenges. It helps if you can simply shake your head and laugh it off. Who is that person who made a mess? If I ever find him, I’ll have a word with him. It’s important to remember too that you’re not that mess you’re digging out from. You’re not ADHD either – you have it, but it doesn’t have you. As you learn more about ADHD and how it affects you and others, you will develop strategies to overcome the challenges you face. It gets better. Just go easy on yourself. Learn to let go. Forgive. Underneath it all you’re a wonderful person. Like the archaeologist, you may have to dig a little, but in time you’ll find the person you know you are – the person you were meant to be.
- ADHD: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- Whew, We Did It! (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- Russell Barkley on ADHD and Emotions (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- What We Know About ADHD (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- Russell Barkley: Executive Function’s Critical Role in ADHD (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- The ADD/ADHD One Step Test, For Adults… (kimberliah.com)
- The ADHD Label (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- ADHD and Emotional Intelligence (capeadhd.wordpress.com)
- Russell Barkley: Executive Function’s Critical Role in ADHD (lifelongaes.net)
- Next Monthly Meeting: 6-16-12 (capeadhd.wordpress.com)